Old-time radio play slated for two shows in Union center
Union News Daily
By Peter Fiorilla - Staff Writer
November 29, 2015.
Union, New Jersey
Just before the doors at Unity Bank on Stuyvesant Avenue open on Saturday, Dec. 5, and Sunday, Dec. 6, for the afternoon performances of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a Theatre Project production reminiscent of 1940’s radio shows, people will be encouraged to gather for a holiday sing-along and kindle a sense of holiday spirit.
That, ultimately, is the theme at the heart of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” said Theatre Project artistic director and Union resident Mark Spina: Bringing people together near the center of town, and give them something to feel happy about.
“It’s a wonderful show about friendship, and the value of ordinary lives. It’s a great holiday message,” said Spina, a Union resident. “I can’t help going through that intersection. Every time I see an empty store, I think ‘wouldn’t it be great to have an arts presence here that would bring more people to downtown Union, that would bring more foot traffic to businesses — there’s some really great restaurants, some really great shops.”
Bringing more foot traffic into the area is partially why the Union Special Improvement District is supporting the show, which will recreate the experience of a 1940’s show and the Lux Radio Theater. It won’t be broadcast, but the cast members, for example, will wear authentic clothing from the time period, when the radio edition of “It’s a Wonderful Life” turned it into a cultural sensation.
“It reminds people of the period, the post-World War II period, and for the kids in the audience, they’ll notice that it takes place in a difference time. For those of us who are a bit older, it takes us back, it evokes those memories,” said Spina. “Some patrons don’t feel in the holiday spirit until they see ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ then they can go out and get their tree or whatever kicks off their holiday season.”
The show features 12 actors — including several from Union — a musician, and a sound technician who will prepare for the big radio broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which was originally a film that neither critics nor the public particularly appreciated. And the sing-along beforehand, said Spina, will help people get into the spirit of the story.
“In the old days of radio, they used to warm the audience up before a broadcast by having a sing-along, or a comic would come out, to get the audience to react,” said Spina. “That’s something we’ve done every year, also, as part of the radio experience. We’d love to become a holiday tradition for some people, the way the tree lighting is a tradition, the way the movie is a tradition.”
After the show on Sunday, audience members are encouraged to be a part of that Tree Lighting Ceremony, which is just a few blocks away and set to begin at 5 p.m. in front of the Municipal Building. For a show about communities coming together, there’s no better way to end the evening, said Spina.
“This story about the value of friendship and small acts of kindness seems to become more and more popular every year,” said Spina. “We’re hoping to meet some new people from Union and at the same time, introduce our ‘regulars’ to the great shops and restaurants in the downtown shopping district.”
The radio play will be performed on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the lobby of Unity Bank, 952 Stuyvesant Ave. The sing-along will start at 1:45 p.m. Public is welcome, admission is charged. For information call 908-809-8865.
Magician Michael Healey Returns to Maplewood
October 30, 2015
Michael Healy has worked his magic over four continents and added a splash of wonder to many theatrical productions as a consulting wizard. Somehow, he also found the time to teach in the East Orange, South Orange and Maplewood school districts, retiring as Columbia High School’s assistant principal earlier this year. The Theater Project is bringing him back to Maplewood for a holiday performance 2 PM Saturday, November 28 at the Burgdorff Center for the Arts, 10 Durand Rd, Maplewood.
In retirement, Healey can devote his full wizardry to bringing magic into the lives of audiences and apprentice magicians. He performs for children, adults and families at all types of functions. Just about every trick he performs involves audience participation. As a former teacher, he enjoys teaching magic to future sleight of hand experts as well. He teaches at least one magic trick to his audiences as part of all his shows.
Michael also conducts a special magic workshop using mathematics and numbers. He published a book entitled, “Amazing Math-A-Magic” for Pencil Point Press. Although the math magic presentation is geared for children, he presents it yearly to future teachers at Rutgers University. He has created a show entitled, “THE HOUDINI EXPERIENCE” which he is performing for “The Traveling Stage” at various clubs and organizations.
Tickets for MICHAEL HEALEY: MAGIC TO DO are $15 for adults and $10 for students; they can be purchased at the door or online at www.thetheaterproject.org; reservations are recommended. All proceeds will benefit The Theater Project.
The Theater Project, an award-winning New Jersey theater company based in Maplewood and Cranford, is known for presenting outrageous comedy as well as drama with social commentary.
Area Playwrights showcased in Theater Project’s Kaleidoscope Kabaret
October 25, 2015
The Theater Project’s Playwrights Workshop displays its wares in KALEIDOSCOPE KABARET, an annual presentation of short plays written by member writers. The event also includes scripts by teen authors, past winners of The Theater Project’s annual Young Playwrights Competition.
The Playwrights Workshop meets privately so members can share work in progress and get feedback from their colleagues. Once a month, a full length play is read aloud for the public followed by a lively discussion with the author; once a year, short plays are rehearsed and produced for the KALEIDOSCOPE KABARET.
“We want to share work with our audiences at various stages of development,” says Theater Project artistic director Mark Spina. “By seeing work in progress as well as plays that the author considers ‘finished’, the audience gets a stronger understanding of the writer’s journey – they become more critical consumers, and they give us increasingly insightful feedback which has been invaluable to the playwrights.”
Member playwrights participating in this year’s Kabaret are Luigi Jannuzzi of Hillsborough, Tylie Shider of Plainfield, Joe Vitale of Denville and Mary Jane Walsh of Basking Ridge. Work by past Young Playwright’s Competition winners Jordan Goldberg of Bergen County Academies and Stella Ferra, Union County Academy for the Performing Arts is also included, giving the two young authors the right to say that their work has been produced by a small professional theater – an impressive accomplishment for a high school student.
Tickets for the KALEIDOSCOPE KABARET are $20 for adults and $10 for students; they can be purchased at the door or online at www.thetheaterproject.org; reservations are recommended.
The Theater Project, an award-winning New Jersey theater company based in Maplewood and Cranford, is known for presenting outrageous comedy as well as drama with social commentary.
CASINO BUS TRIP FROM CRANFORD
THEATER PROJECT OFFERS TRIP TO BETHLEHEM SANDS CASINO AS FUNDRAISER
Plungers and dicers, high rollers and one-arm bandit players – as well as folks who just want to shop and have lunch – are invited to join The Theater Project on a bus trip to Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Sunday, November 8, 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM.
Spend a day enjoying the scenery, having a pleasant meal, and perhaps indulging in games of chance.
“We are always looking for novel methods to raise money for The Theater Project,” says board president Robert Young, “and we felt this would be a way to offer people some good fellowship and another form of entertainment in exchange for supporting the arts.”
The bus will leave from the Cranford Public Library parking lot at 10:30 am and return around 6:30pm. Bus passengers may park in the library lot.
The $35 ticket covers round trip transportation, a $20 slot voucher and a $5 food coupon for restaurants in the Casino.
Funds raised will support The Theater Project’s mission of bringing live theater to New Jersey audiences and providing opportunities for actors, directors and playwrights.
The award-winning company, celebrating 22 years, also offers programs such as workshops and presentations with professional playwrights, and classes for kids in Cranford, Maplewood and Union.
Think Fast:Theater Project Solicits Short Plays
for February 2016 Competition
The Theater Project, an award-winning, professional theater in Maplewood, NJ, is now soliciting short plays for “Fast Forward,” its third annual short play competition in February 2016. The contest is open to adult playwrights in the New Jersey-New York area.
The Theater Project, which also offers a competition for high school playwrights and presentations of original plays by New Jersey authors, sees this as a logical extension of its mission.
“THINK FAST is quickly emerging as one of New Jersey’s premiere one-act festivals,” says Mark Spina, artistic director of The Theater Project. “It’s an exciting showcase and our audience loves hearing new voices and seeing a range of characters, topics and plots. Our festival allows both established playwrights as well as new writers to see their work produced. Nothing is more exciting than live theater, and we’re happy to be able to bring this festival to our region.”
Plays can be either dramas or comedies but must be no more than 15 minutes running time. The deadline for submitting plays is November 20, 2015. Plays and actors compete for audience favorite awards; one playwright is chosen to receive the $500 Critics Choice grand prize. These performances will be open to the public and take place at The Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.
Complete submission details are available on the company’s web site, TheTheaterProject.org. The competition accepts electronic submissions only at OneActFest@TheTheaterProject.org. Include in the Subject line: “Submission + the Title of Your Play.”
The Theater Project, a professional theater company based in Maplewood, NJ, began in 1994 with the goal of bringing the best contemporary plays to our community. The company is known for presenting outrageous comedy as well as drama with social commentary.
INSPIRING AND BEING INSPIRED: The Theater Project announces fourteenth annual Young Playwrights Competition
Open to all NJ secondary school students, ages 13 to 18.
October 5, 2015
Young Playwrights Competition
Submission deadline January 19, 2016
NJ High School Students
INFO: www.thetheaterproject.org, 908 809-8865
The Theater Project is once again reaching out to creative young people in its fourteenth annual Young Playwrights Competition. Winners receive cash prizes and see their work performed by professional actors at the awards ceremony in March of 2016.
The submission deadline is January 19, 2016. New Jersey’s high school playwrights submit their short plays at TheTheaterProject.org web site, where they will find all the necessary entry guidelines and formatting rules.
“We look forward to inspiring and being inspired,” said artistic director Mark Spina. “Every year, we are energized by the incredible talent and creativity in the entries, and every year we hope to inspire more young people to write and be creative by providing a showcase for their work.”
Nine young people were honored in the March 2015 awards ceremony: First Prize: Cathryn Mesce, from the Union County Academy for the Performing Arts; tied for Second Prize: Rachel Sobel, Montclair Kimberley Academy and Brianna Torres, Union County Academy for the Performing Arts: Third Prize: Jordan Goldberg, Bergen County Academies. Honorable Mentions went to Stella Ferra and Jole Perkins, Union County Academy for the Performing Arts, Maddie Grubbs Hightstown High School, Natalie Lifson, The Pingry School, Jillian Rezen and Camille Tejeda, Bergen County Academies.
The Theater Project is an award-winning professional company in residence at The Burgdorff Cultural Center in Maplewood, NJ. Several past winners of the Playwrights Competition have gone on to pursue degrees in theater and playwriting, and they often return to The Theater Project to present prizes and share their journeys with the newest honorees.
One such example is Jake Brandman, a graduate of Westfield High School and former Young Playwrights prize winner. He is now living and working in New York City, having received a BFA in Dramatic Writing and an MFA in Musical Theater Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts. Jake’s work has been performed at venues ranging from Joe’s Pub to the Laurie Beechman Theater to the Library at Lincoln Center. His recent works include “The Bushwickers: A Play about Superheroes” and “The Music of Erich Zann.”
Jake is a frequent guest speaker at the awards ceremony, where he shares his experiences and takes questions from the younger writers.
"Working with the Theater Project on the Young Playwright's Competition is always one of the highlights of my year,” Jake said. “It's such a treat to show these enthusiastic and talented high school students that their hard work is both deserving of celebration and worthy of being shared with the community."
On the day of the ceremony, the judges and members of The Theater Project’s Adult Playwrights Workshop also offer half-hour tutorials to any interested contest entrant.
“We want to make sure that kids know how appreciated their creative efforts are by showcasing them in front of the community,” says artistic director Spina. “In tough economic times, the arts sometimes get short changed as people struggle to make ends meet and schools see their budgets shrink. But when kids lose out on arts experiences, they miss opportunities to develop critical thinking and reading skills that are needed now more than ever.”
Complete competition guidelines are available at TheTheaterProject.org.
MAPLEWOOD’S VIVA Z CLUB SPONSORS THE THEATER PROJECT’S ‘BUYER AND CELLAR’
Viva Z Club announces sponsorship of The Theater Project’s production of BUYER AND CELLAR at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts (10 Durand Road, Maplewood, NJ). The show runs October 8th – 18th.
BUYER AND CELLAR is the final production of THREE PLAYS IN THREE WEEKS, an entire season of entertainment delivered in less than one month by The Theater Project, the professional theater company at the Burgdorff Center in Maplewood.
Viva Z Club will also be sponsoring a wine and cheese reception for its clients, instructors and friends at 7 pm prior to the Friday, October 16th performance. The reception is free with a ticket to the show.
An intimate dance and fitness studio located in Maplewood, Viva Z Club is delighted to partner with The Theater Project. The sponsorship is part of Viva Z Club’s commitment to supporting the arts community in Maplewood and its surrounding towns.
“We’re thrilled to be supporting the work of The Theatre Project especially since one of our amazing instructors, Jason Gillis, is starring in the production,” said Jeannie Mendes-Doman, owner of Viva Z Club. “I performed in various shows prior to starting a family and opening a business. I wish I had the ability to get back into singing and dancing on stage. Since it’s not possible for me at this point in my life, I’m happy to support others in fulfilling their love for being on stage.”
About Viva Z Club
Viva Z Club, located at 1874 Springfield Avenue, offers a social environment with its Club Room. They encourage friendships, offer mutual encouragement and support to be fit and healthy. It is all about: you’re not alone on your path to being a healthier, fitter and happier you! Viva Z Club does not require a membership or a joining fee. You choose how you wish to participate; they offer “drop-ins”, “class packs” or “unlimited classes”. For information visit: www.VivaZClub.com.
About The Theater Project
The award-winning company, celebrating 22 years, also offers programs such as workshops and presentations with professional playwrights, and classes for kids in theater, juggling and music, in Cranford, Maplewood and Union.
Theater project announces fall 2015 schedule
Running from September 24 through October 18, in Maplewood, NJ; after its summer hiatus, The Theater Project comes roaring back to life with Three Plays in Three Weeks, an entire season of entertainment delivered in less than one month. The professional theater company at the Burgdorff Center in Maplewood allows theatergoers to experience a mini theater season over three weekends -- and save money if they buy a three play package for $45. Artistic Director Mark Spina said, “By offering three different plays, we give new patrons a menu of choices, and create an opportunity to see our current fans more often – which is always a pleasure.” The shows will run Sept 24 - Oct 18, Thursdays through Sundays, at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, 10 Durand Road, Maplewood, NJ. Actors greet the audience after each performance, and talkbacks are held every Friday night.
The menu includes:
TEACHER IN THE HOUSE (Sept 24 – Sept 27), about the challenges facing a teacher assigned to home school children, will be performed by its author: character comic Susan Jeremy, who has toured the US, Canada and Europe with one-woman shows about her experiences as a teacher. Jeremy returns to Maplewood after presenting A TEACHER GROWS IN BROOKLYN with The Theater Project last year.
FOR WHOM THE SOUTHERN BELLE TOLLS and other theater parodies by Christopher Durang (Oct 1 – 4) satirizes the classic plays of Tennessee Williams, such as The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Director Mark Spina says, “You will never see these stories again in quite the same way after you see what has been done to them by Christopher Durang.” (Durang, called “one of the funniest playwrights alive” by The New Yorker, is the author of the recent Broadway hit VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE.) The cast includes Gail Lou of Englewood, Gary Glor (Union,) Barbara Guidi (Scotch Plains), Will Budnikov (Woodbridge) and Dennis DaPrile (Spring Lake).
BUYER AND CELLAR (October 9 -- 12), a one-man show about an out-of-work actor who lands a job as the “curator” of Barbra Streisand’s basement, was a hit in New York and New Brunswick. Jason Gillis (Springfield) plays all the characters and David Christopher (Cranford) directs.